SR SSD 2002-05

Technical Attachment

Early Experience with Weather Event Simulator at WFO Fort Worth

Bill Bunting and Mike Vescio
WFO Fort Worth, Texas

Ed. note: MIC Bill Bunting and SOO Mike Vescio provided the following comments regarding initial experiences with set up and use of the new Weather Event Simulator (WES) as part of the WFO Fort Worth training program. We are sharing their comments with only minor editing.

(MIC) The following is some early feedback on the use of the Weather Event Simulator at WFO Fort Worth, to provide an idea how one office is using this new tool to enhance on-station training for severe weather decision making. All forecasters at the WFO are provided with WES-based training, the goals of which are to

All of the Fort Worth forecasters have completed an initial seven-hour simulation, based on the Birmingham, Alabama tornado scenario distributed to Southern Region offices as part of the initial WES implementation. Our intent was to provide a rigorous training opportunity which tested the staff, yet also provide ample feedback on each person's strengths and weaknesses. We feel we have been successful so far in evaluating staff skills, providing relevant training, and also in gaining insight into additional training needs to further develop overall expertise.

From our experience, using a case from outside the local CWA has not proven detrimental to the training process. We encourage offices to consider the usefulness of cases outside their CWA as a means of augmenting local training. Also, we believe the most effective way to assess each forecaster's skill is to have the SOO (or other trainer) sit with the trainee throughout the simulation. This requires a significant commitment of the trainer's time, but the results at our office indicate the effort is worthwhile.

Forecasters have been very positive in their comments regarding this new training experience, stating they felt as though they had just finished working a major severe weather event. This feedback suggests we can now begin to truly "train like we fight." WES is paying dividends here by allowing us to reinforce the essential concepts in the warning decision process. Though the proof will ultimately lie in our performance, we are very pleased with our early experiences.

(SOO) At WFO Fort Worth we have adopted an aggressive training approach with regard to the WES. Each forecaster will spend a day with the SOO and complete the simulation in three phases. Phase one is short term forecasting of severe convection. The premise behind this phase is that if one knows what the large-scale environment will support before storms form, better warnings can be issued. The participants are required to examine diagnostic and prognostic data to determine what will happen in the County Warning Area later that afternoon and evening. This portion of the simulation tests the forecaster's knowledge of mesoscale processes related to severe convection and their ability to evaluate meteorological parameters and assign relative risks of tornadoes, wind damage, and hail. After reviewing the data, a Hazardous Weather Outlook is written for the CWA. The written product provides a measure of how well the forecaster understood and assimilated the observed and forecast data. During this phase the SOO takes notes and answers questions.

Phase two is warning decision-making. The participant is the warning forecaster for the event. Approximately four hours of radar simulation occurs during this phase. The SOO provides ground truth reports, some bogus reports, and keeps track of warnings issued. The most important aspect of the radar simulation is to monitor the progress of the individual and take detailed notes. For example, some aspects unique to the individual such as interrogation methods, ways of prioritizing storms, warning biases, composure under stress, intuition, mechanics, expertise, and fatigue level should all be recorded.

Phase three is the debriefing. The SOO and the participant discuss how the simulation went, emphasizing the positive aspects, but also discussing areas in which additional training may be needed. All forecasters who been through the training have found the experience very worthwhile. From a training perspective, this methodology has proven to be exceptionally useful both for trainees and the trainer. Performing training in this manner will allow for the development of individualized training plans for each forecaster rather than a generic approach for all forecasters. This approach will increase the warning decision-making skills of all forecasters at WFO Fort Worth.